What is the theme of "The Jewelry" and when does the climax occur?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Aside from other themes that can be extrapolated from the story "The Jewelry" (also known as "The False Gems") by Guy de Maupassant, one of the key topics is "authenticity."  What is real? What is not? What is fantasy? What is reality?

The theme of authenticity is evident in several aspects of the story. First, look at Mr. Lantin’s wife. Described as

a perfect type of the virtuous woman in whose hands every sensible young man dreams of one day entrusting his happiness,

 she is further seen as “angelic,” “modest,” “pure” and “lovely.” She was praised by everyone and was the object of her husband’s deepest affection. We learn that this is just a façade. Mrs. Lantin is anything but angelic, much less virtuous, pure, or modest. She was having an affair and securing expensive jewelry through the generosity of whoever she was seeing. She was also quite fond of the expensive jewels. Fond enough to admire the pieces openly, even showing them to her husband, and lying about them

 She would roll the pearl necklaces around her fingers, and hold up the bright gems for her husband's admiration, gently coaxing him: "Look! are they not lovely? One would swear they were real.

This shows that the woman had expensive taste, so she was not modest. She also had a way to get to what she wanted by cheating on her husband, and getting gifts from other men. This makes her less than virtuous. On top of that, she simply lies about the whole thing and makes her husband think that these are imitation pieces; that she is considerate enough not to want the real thing.  Her jewels may not be fake, but she certainly is.

The jewels are also part of the theme of authenticity because the fact that they are real is what ultimately shows Mrs. Lantin for who she really is.  After she dies, Mr. Lantin has no choice but to try and sell what he believes to be fake jewels. It is then when he realizes that his marriage was a farce. Discovering the authenticity of the jewels brought out the reality of the fakery of the marriage, and the cheating of Mrs. Lantin. This event also marks the climax of the story, for everything that happens afterwards starts the dénouement of the action and the eventual end of the story.

pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The theme that I would say is most relevant is the idea that things are not always what they seem, second, reality is perception.  M. Lantin believes that the jewels are fake, his wife never tells him that they are real, she can't he did not buy them for her, and she could not afford to buy them herself. 

He believes that she loves him and is a faithful wife.  When in fact, she must have had an affair with a wealthy man during their marriage, the person who bought the gems.

The turning point in the story, or the climax comes when M. Lantin discovers that the gems are real.  His life is dramatically changed once he sells the jewels.  He becomes very wealthy.

The irony in this story is verbal irony, because M. Lantin's wife knows that the jewels are real. She tells him:

"What can I do? I am so fond of jewelry. It is my only weakness. We cannot change our natures." Then she would roll the pearl necklaces around her fingers, and hold up the bright gems for her husband's admiration, gently coaxing him:"Look! are they not lovely? One would swear they were real." (de Maupassant)

The other form of irony is situational irony.  When the outcome is different than expected.  M. Lantin believes that the gems are false, and then discovers to his surprise that they are real. 

When he marries his second wife, he expects that she will make him happy because of her virtue, the opposite happens, he is miserable.